"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Nova Scotia Connections: A Day in the Life of Great Village: Boy Scouts

Imagine you are a young boy standing by the post office watching your brother, your uncle, your cousin, your neighbour, clad in full highland regalia, march in a battalion parade, the piper leading the soldiers to the big truck to take them to Truro ─ then off to Aldershot, Valcartier, England, France.... Imagine how excited you are at the spectacle and how much you want to go. But you are too young. You must stay home.

Boy Scout Manual 1914

Rev. William Gillespie watched these Great Village boys entranced by the military parades and realized that they needed some focus for their energies. Though a grown man, he too watched his younger brother Robert go off to war, and had seen how determined he was to do his duty. Rev. Gillespie had heard about the Scouting movement, which had started in England in 1907, and had reached Canada almost immediately. In 1912 the Boy Scout Association was granted a royal charter throughout the Empire by King George V. The Canadian General Council of the Boy Scout Association had been incorporated on June 12, 1914.(1) Rev. Gillespie talked to several of his parishioners and in mid-May 1916 they gathered together some of the boys from Great Village and Glenholme and formed a Boy Scout Band.

Rev. Gillespie is the Scout Master and several other men agreed to be patrol leaders. Though the Boy Scout Band has only been in existence in Great Village for just over a month, they are already very active. They have set up a club room and meet every Saturday evening, beginning their meetings with a prayer and “The Maple Leaf Forever,” and ending with “God Save the King.” Their first fundraiser was a bean supper at the Temperance Hall on May 20 to raise money to buy uniforms. The evening was a big success for them; they raised about $40. On May 24, the boys hosted a visit from the Truro Scout Band. Both Bands joined together and paraded to Londonderry — a pretty long walk (actually, several wagons went along and carried them part way), where they attended a concert and had a rousing hay ride back to the village. The next big event to raise funds was on June 10, when they hosted an ice cream social, and Villagers had a taste of the first strawberries of the season, quite early this year.

During their regular meetings the Scouts practice drills, woodcraft, signalling, tracking and other useful skills. This past Sunday the Scouts paraded to the Baptist church for the afternoon service. They looked smart and proud in their new uniforms. The boys are excitedly preparing to go to a Scout Camp at Stewiacke in July. They will spend about three weeks under canvas with bands from all across Eastern Nova Scotia. And later in August they are planning several picnics and bacon fries at Spencer’s Point

Boy Scout Manual 1919

Though today not a regular meeting day, several of the patrol leaders are taking some of the Scouts to Mount Pleasant this evening to practice tracking skills. Rev. Gillespie is not able to join them because of the missionary lecture at the Presbyterian church. But he'll be there on Saturday for the regular meeting, when the leaders have a surprise planned for the boys, an excursion to the cinema in Truro, which is showing a film about the Empire’s war effort.

At this time of war, with all its organized and heightened activity, it is good for the young boys to have a purpose to meet and learn new things, and have some fun too.(2) Even the smallest boys, like Arthur Bulmer’s Billy and Lucius Hills’ Seth, inseparable lads who ache to be part of the pack, are excited about the Scouts. There is talk of setting up a group for the smallest boys. Today Arthur and Lucius have decided to take their sons to Truro with the rest of the troop. Everyone knows Arthur has been very sad about Gertie’s trouble; he has always been protective of his younger sisters, even as he’s teased them mercilessly sometimes. Lucius convinced him that another run to Truro, even after yesterday’s election trip, would be a good distraction.


1. The Canadian General Council of the Boy Scouts Association, incorporated in 1914, remained a branch of the Boy Scouts Association until it became an independent member of the Boy Scouts World Conference on October 30, 1946. The name was changed to Boys Scouts of Canada and then to Scouts Canada in 1976 (Canadian Encyclopedia, p. 2122).

2. The Great Village Boy Scout Band disbanded in 1919 with the departure of Rev. W.M. Gillespie. It was not until 1928 that another band was formed, NO. 27, headed by Rev. L.B. Wright, the Baptist minister. The Scouts remained active in Great Village for the next several decades and enjoyed camping trips to Folly Lake in the summers. In 1932 a Wolf Club Pack was organized, and it too remained active for decades. Hundreds of Great Village boys participated in the Scouts and Wolf Club groups over the years.

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